Name: Chris Grabenstein
Who is Chris? Award winning author of both children and adult fiction with a love of all things library.
Books: John Ceepak Mystery (Books 1-8), Haunted Mystery (Books 1-4), Christopher Miller Holiday Thrillers (Books 1 &2), Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library
Meet my new favorite author. There are no words to describe when you meet and author who writes exactly what you need and how you need it. From his adult books to his children books, this writer feeds my horror and mystery addiction at the same time. In this interview Chris explains how he is able to be so specific in his books and how he is able to keep both his adult and children audiences entertained.
You write both Adult and Children mysteries; how are you able to stay pure to each genre without crossing the line into the other?
Well, at their heart, all mysteries are puzzles, where the reader gets to play along and solve a crime or figure something out before the characters in the story do. The conventions of the genre work for both young and old. You just have to watch your subject matter and language choices when writing for kids. And, of course, realize that they have a much shorter attention span than even me!
Your books are very involved with specific details about a person’s past or an event in history. What usually inspires these details for you?
I think that comes from the time I spent as a stage actor. When you are creating a character for a play, you always build a “back story,” a history that would justify why the character is acting the way they are when the curtain goes up. Details make anything more believable. A lot of the details come from memories or my own. For instance, the character of Kyle Keeley, the game fanatic in ESCAPE FROM MR. LEMONCELLO’S LIBRARY, is based on my own memories of being the third child in a family of boys. The only time I could beat my older brothers was when we played board games!
In your latest book Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library you’re putting the spotlight on those who completely love the library and have dreamed of spending the ultimate sleepover in the library. What made you decide to write a book about that?
Growing up, I didn’t have access to great (or even good) libraries at school or in my small Tennessee town. Now that I have been visiting about 40 schools a year to talk about books and writing, I spend a lot of time with awesome librarians and media specialists. I marvel at how enthusiastic they are about getting their students reading, always standing by with a fresh recommendation. “Oh, it you liked X, you’ll love Y!” I sure wish those librarians had been around when I was in middle school. Then, maybe, I would’ve read more books instead of just a lot of Mad magazines (which, I think are also great). I wanted this book to be a celebration of libraries and the democratic notion of shared knowledge. That’s why Mr. Lemoncello’s motto is “Knowledge Not Shared Remains Unknown.”
How would you describe your success as a writer?
Well, it depends on how you define success. For me, the greatest joy and sense of achievement comes when I hear from parents who tell me that their son or daughter “hasn’t a read a book in years” and “couldn’t put yours down.” And, when I go into a school and get an assembly of 300 kids jazzed about reading and writing? That’s a very good and successful day.
Finally, out of all the books you’ve written, which is your favorite and why?
Whichever one I just finished! Actually, I have a few. THE CROSSROADS, because it was the first book I wrote for middle grades readers after doing five mysteries and thrillers for adults. I LOVE writing for kids. Next up, is I FUNNY, a book I co-authored with James Patterson. When I first moved to New York City, I wanted to become a stand up comic. Now, thanks to Jamie Grimm and James Patterson, I get to do it — on the page, anyway. Finally I am thrilled with ESCAPE FROM MR. LEMONCELLO’S LIBRARY. The response from teachers, librarians, and, most importantly, 4th, 5th, and 6th graders has been phenomenal!
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